Otley Road Cycleway

Cycling on Otley Road, Harrogate
Cycling on Otley Road, Harrogate

North Yorkshire County Council is planning to build a segregated cycle route alongside Otley Road, Harrogate. (Please do it properly).

Otley Road Cycleway: Latest Developments

Otley Road Cycleway Delayed Again

21st May 2021

Otley Road Cycleway timetable
Otley Road Cycleway timetable

The Otley Road Cycleway project has gone from serial missed deadlines to a new strategy of providing no timetable at all. Is the new tactic an improvement on the old, or just as bad but in a different way?

Find out in Otley Road Cycleway Delayed Again.

Otley Road Cycleway Update

26th January 2021

Cycling on Otley Road, Harrogate
Cycling on Otley Road, Harrogate

An update on the Otley Road Cycleway - not actual work starting, of course, but news on the Stray land exchange and Northern Powergrid's timetable for moving their services.

Read an Otley Road Cycleway Update.

Otley Road Cycleway: More Delays

7th June 2020

Construction work still hasn't started on the Otley Road cycleway. It has been split into three phases but nothing has happened on the ground.

Phase One was supposed to be finished in July 2020. Then they realised they had to move some utility pipes or access points, causing another delay. Given the cycleway should have been built in July 2018, I don't understand why no one thought about or did anything about utilities until now.

The latest news is the Phase One will be built in August 2020 - but given the history of this project, who believes that deadline will be met?

Otley Road Cycleway: Another Delay to the Timetable

22nd November 2019

The construction of the Otley Road cycleway has been delayed again.

According to the original timetable, work should have been carried out in July 2018; a revised timetable meant that the cycleway was to be built in late September 2019.

Now, NYCC's West Harrogate Improvement Package page states that work on the cycleway will start at the end of February or beginning of March 2020.

Some of the grass verges near Harrogate Grammar School are technically part of the Stray. NYCC say that Stray consultations - procedures to replace any Otley Road grass verges lost with new Stray land - are unlikely to be finished by March 2020, so the lower part of the cycleway may be delayed even longer.

Grass verges, not the actual Stray

Grass verge on Otley Road
Grass verge on Otley Road

Some residents opposed to sustainable travel have been trying to use the existence of the Otley Road grass verges to block this much-needed cycle route. They claim that it amounts to a threat to the The Stray, and use pictures of the actual Stray with wonderful cherry blossom to try to persuade people.

To be clear, some narrow strips of grass alongside Otley Road may be lost; this Stray land would be replaced with new Stray land. There is no threat whatsoever to what people think of as the Stray.

The Stray is there to be used by local people for recreation. The Otley Road grass verges are totally unsuitable for that purpose. When have you ever seen anyone having a picnic there? Never, because it would be awful. Any replacement land is likely to be of more value than these grass verges.

Opponents of the cycleway have also referred to twelve trees being lost.

Again, to be clear, two trees (not twelve) will have to be felled for the cycleway to be built. Several more will be planted elsewhere to replace them.

Another ten trees are to be felled to widen Otley Road at the junction with Harlow Moor Road for vehicles. This has absolutely nothing to do with the cycleway.

No cycleway would mean ever more traffic

The truth is that most people don't want to share the road with busy traffic including HGVs, and if that's the only option, they just won't cycle. That means no alternative to the car, in many cases. As housing is built and the population of Harrogate expands, we could only look forward to more traffic, more congestion, more pollution, and an exacerbated climate crisis.

It is totally disingenuous to suggest that sabotaging the cycleway would benefit the environment. For the sake of our health and the health of the planet, we must urgently find ways to tread lightly. High on the priority list is swapping polluting vehicles for active travel, for short, local journeys.

People will only do that if you provide safe, convenient infrastructure. That's what we need, and that's what Otley Road cycleway is. Let's get on with it.

Otley Road Cycleway: NYCC Q&A Document

20th March 2019

A Q&A document has appeared on NYCC's West Harrogate page, with the questions people raised at the January 2019 consultation, and the answers to them. It's good that they produced this document.

There are a lot of questions, and I won't go through them all. Some notable points include:

*A look on the web turned up this link, which confirms that 'uncontrolled crossings' are 95% useless. They have dropped kerbs, but other than that, they are not really crossings at all. As Clackmannanshire Council's website makes clear, 'Drivers are not required to stop at an uncontrolled crossing point. The pedestrian must wait at the kerb until there is a suitable gap in traffic to allow them to cross, and should only then cross with due care and attention...Pedestrians must not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and there is plenty of time to cross. Even if traffic is a long way off, it may be approaching very quickly.'

So pedestrians are getting crossings where they have no priority and have to dodge the traffic, and if they get run over, it will be their own fault. That's unbelievably poor. Remember, these are residential streets, which should be for people not cars. Pedestrians should be considered first, according to the hierarchy of road users, but they are not - cars are given priority. It is a big step forward that the cycle route is to be given priority over side roads, but a big step backwards that pedestrians are not.

It's no good councils just saying that they are in favour of walking - they have to back up their words with actions, otherwise those words are hollow. Instead of planning for growth in traffic by 2035, NYCC should be planning for a reduction in traffic, and making walking and cycling by far the most convenient ways of travelling on Otley Road.

Otley Road Cycleway: Timetable Slips Once Again

15th March 2019

NYCC's West Harrogate Improvement Package page has been updated. It now gives 'indicative start dates' for the schemes that make up the package. They are:

Otley Road Cycleway Consultation

Cycling on Otley Road, Harrogate

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) held a community engagement event to discuss the proposed segregated cycle route on Otley Road. It took place at Harrogate Grammar School Sixth Form College, on Monday 21st January 2019. NYCC officers and designers were present, to discuss the schemes. (Written comments could be submitted to area6.boroughbridge@northyorks.gov.uk).

NYCC was successful with a bid for funding from central government. The sum is £4.6 million, and it is to pay for improvements to junctions on Otley Road, 'smart' traffic lights, and better pedestrian crossings, as well as the cycle route. It is called the West Harrogate improvement package.

There's a draft plan of the cycle route. This was Harrogate & District Cycle Action's submission, with the reasons why a quality cycle route is needed, and my comments on the detailed design.

I suggest the key points are:

On 15th February 2019, after the deadline for written comments to the consultation, the Harrogate Advertiser published a 'state of play' article. Much of it was journalistic hyperbole ('Harrogate's version of Brexit' - not helpful), and it made the most of any conflicts, doubts and complexities.

The article did have quotes from NYCC Councillor Mackenzie, with some useful information. The responses to the consultation are to be analysed. The exact timetable isn't clear, but the first section is not likely to be built by the time of the Tour de Yorkshire (May 2019); the first section will be finished by the UCI 2019 World Championships (September 2019). (This has now been delayed again - see 15th March 2019 post above).

In August 2017, Hedgehog Cycling reported that the county council had made a bid for DfT funding for, amongst other things, junction improvements and the segregated cycle track.

On 30th November 2017, the Harrogate Advertiser reported that the bid was successful. Some work was due to begin in March 2018, and the creation of the cycle track was scheduled for July 2018. No work appears to have started at the time of writing (mid-June 2018).

In January 2018, the Stray Defence Association raised objections to the cycle track, with the Chairperson of the Association telling the Harrogate Advertiser that the plan would involve the loss of grass verges next to Otley Road, and possibly some trees, that technically form part of the Stray.

Councillor Don Mackenzie of NYCC Highways is confident that the Stray Defence Association objections can be overcome. In the past, land has been set aside elsewhere to replace grass lost in making paths.

All Harrogate residents value the Stray. I've never seen anyone playing frisbee or having a picnic on the Otley Road verges, though. It would be awful. Almost any replacement land would have more amenity value - particularly Stray Rein and Coach Road, currently used for parking cars.

A segregated cycle route on Otley Road is essential.

Otley Road Cycleway: Why it is Essential

Cyclist on Otley Road

People do use Otley Road on bikes, but my observation is that about half of them find sharing the main carriageway with traffic too hostile an environment, and choose to ride along the pavement instead. If all drivers followed rule 163 of the Highway Code when overtaking, there would be no problem, but they do not. In fact, a Highway Code overtake is a rarity on Otley Road, with most drivers choosing to pass leaving much less space.

Fear of traffic isn't the only problem - there are collisions and injuries too. On 14th June 2018, a cyclist was injured in a collision with a Vauxhall Astra near the Otley Road/Cardale Park junction, and taken to hospital.

Harrogate suffers from congestion problems. People should have a genuine choice about whether to drive and sit in (and worsen) the traffic jams, or whether to use a bike for short distances around town. At the moment too many people don't feel safe cycling, so it is not an option for them.

The air quality on Otley Road is unacceptably poor. I know this from walking on the pavement, and breathing the traffic exhaust fumes. I don't know exactly how bad the air pollution is, because Harrogate BC do not measure it - they say that most of the houses are set back a bit, so they don't have to carry out measurements.

We know that diesel exhaust fumes in particular are very damaging to our health. The fumes are damaging the health of people in the area, including the pupils breathing them in on the way to the schools on and near Otley Road. A safe bike route will at least give people a choice about whether to add to the pollution or not. Consideration should also be given as to whether to follow the example of London and exclude the most polluting vehicles from the centre of town.

Otley Road Cycleway: it Must be Safe and Convenient

Copenhagen bike lane
An example of what is possible, from Copenhagen

Like the rest of the UK, Harrogate has more than enough poor quality, non user-friendly 'cycle infrastructure', which is often ignored by people who already cycle, and does not attract new cyclists. We're even building new sub-standard cycle routes now.

I'm not going to go into all the factors that make or break cycle infrastructure, but while the Otley Road route is still being planned, and before mistakes are set in concrete, I would like to say, 'give it priority over side roads'.

If you build a route that gives way to every side road, you may as well not bother. It's just the same as riding on the pavement. The people who currently ride on the pavement will use the cycle track, and everyone else will ignore it.

When cycling, you want a bit of continuity - to be able to get going and keep going, not stop at every side road. If you're going straight on, you should have priority over side roads; if you're turning, give way. It's not asking for special treatment - just for the same priority rules as for vehicles. (While we're about it, we could give the pavement priority over turning vehicles at side roads, as in the photo above).

The alternative is that vehicles on Otley Road (and any bikes that use the road) have priority over side roads, but the bike route doesn't. The message would be: if you're in a car, you're important, if you're on a bike, you're not. It won't encourage people to use the bike route, and won't attract more cyclists.

To be clear, if the bike route is to give way to all the side roads, it will be a waste of time, and personally I won't support it or use it. Let's hope that's not the case.

Otley Road Cycleway: Another Example of What is Possible

Cardiff cycle infrastructure
Planned Cardiff cycle infrastructure, © Cardiff Council

Cardiff is planning some quality segregated cycle routes, with work on the first to start on 18th March 2019.

We have got too used to nearly all the space and priority on roads being given to private cars, and everyone else being crammed into what remains, and made to scuttle across roads, dodging vehicles. Enough is enough.

The image shows what we must start building in 2019: streets with proper provision and proper priority for people on foot and riding bikes.

Of course we can't make Otley Road as wide as the street in the image, but we can put in crossings of side roads with priority, and we should.

And there are streets in Harrogate that are wide, such as Leeds Road/West Park. The problem is, cars are given two lanes, plus parking either side. It's time to implement a more reasonable and equitable use of space there, too.

Otley Rd cycleway comment